Perhaps one of the biggest reasons that people fail in their quest to play great doubles is that they have the wrong shots.
There are certain shots I often see people trying to hit when they play doubles that are just not the best shots they could play.
And maybe worse still, they spend a whole load of time (and money) trying to improve those shots.
If your only objective is to play winning doubles, then here are three shots you need to put time into developing and improving versus some shots you don't need the extra time to improve.
You Don't Need a Big Serve
The biggest problem with the big fast serve is this: It reduces the time you have to get ready for the return.
Players on the receiving end of your serve also get the chance to block or tee off at the ball, using the pace you've given them and often without having to move their feet. They retain their court position and are ready to play another shot if they need to.
Yes, if you are playing a pair of a much lesser standard and you already have a big flat serve, then great. But if you don't already have full command over a big serve, then concentrate on the opposite option.
You Do Need a Good Spin Serve
A good spin serve does everything a hard flat serve can't. It gives you more time to get in to the net or ready for the next shot (hopefully a volley).
It doesn't give the returner as much pace to work with, and if it's a good slice or kick, it will force them to move.
If it's good enough, then a weak return is always the result of a player forced to move their feet when off balance and will bring your partner in to play -- more often than not, to poach. It also opens up more gaps on the court for you to exploit (as your opponents have to move to get the ball).
If you watched Roger Federer win the Gold medal at the last Olympics, you would have seen him serving for placement not power most of the time.
You Don't Need Topspin Groundstrokes
This is a funny one because this is a shot you definitely need for singles.
But for doubles, the concept of hitting high looping shots from the back of the court is a no-no. Here's why: Shots traveling deep to the back of the court with topspin become a nice easy volley either for the opposite net player, who can poach it, or for the oncoming volleyer.
If you possess a sharply dipping topspin shot that you can angle or put at the feet of the opposition, then you are OK. But if all you have is the singles-like groundstroke, then you are in trouble.
Also, if you can't get the ball to dip at the feet of an oncoming player you will only be presenting them with a volley or mid-court ball that they can hit on the rise and make life difficult for you.
You also need to consider whether the extreme grips often used for topspin groundstrokes may give you a problem when and if you need to change grips when coming to the net to volley or half volley.